Treatment of Gulf War Veterans Examined

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WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs examined the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) commitment to treating the health-related problems associated with Gulf War veterans. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recently released Gulf War and Health Volume 9: Treatment for Chronic Multisymptom Illness (CMI), which is a report that made several recommendations focused on improving the treatment of CMI, commonly known as Gulf War Illness.

“Veterans from the 1991 Gulf War have struggled for more than two decades to dispel the all too frequent accusation that ‘it is all in their head.’ Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have recently presented to the Veterans Health Administration with similar symptoms and have joined their fellow veterans in the fight for effective treatments and legitimate recognition of CMI by providers. I stand with them in this fight and will work with the Chairman to ensure that the VA takes a more thorough approach in understanding veterans’ unique needs and the full toll of military service,” said Subcommittee Ranking Member Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-01).

When veterans of the 1991 Gulf War returned home they reported suffering from ill-defined and unexplained physical symptoms such as fatigue, muscle and joint pain, gastrointestinal problems, memory difficulties and headaches. Initially, these symptoms were called Gulf War Illness or Gulf War Syndrome. In seeking an explanation for their ailments, many were initially evaluated by the VA and were diagnosed with psychological conditions, such as depression or anxiety disorders, or not given a diagnosis at all.

The definition of CMI used for the purposes of the IOM report volume 9 is below:

The presence of a spectrum of chronic symptoms experienced for 6 months or longer in at least two of six categories—fatigue, mood and cognition, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, respiratory, and neurologic—that may overlap with but are not fully captured by known syndromes (such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), and fibromyalgia) or other diagnoses.

The IOM report made several recommendations on improving treatment, evaluating the effectiveness of current efforts, educating providers and disseminating information, improving communications between patient and provider, closing gaps in data, and improving research on treatments of CMI.

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